The question remains: How to pierce the veil of the unconscious? Better than the elixir is ritual or routine. Sometimes I start the day writing nonsense until it turns into sense. I scribble, never lifting the pen from the page and never giving into self criticism. I knock my mother and grandmother off my shoulder. This is a kind of automatic writing, which puts me in touch with my unconscious and what it needs to tell me. It is a sort of dreaming on paper. I do it better on a yellow legal pad with a fast flowing pen that on the computer, where writing looks too much like print.
Meditation sometimes works (the best mantra I have found is : No thought, no thought, no thought), as does playing music or reading poetry, taking a walk or a swim. When all else fails, there’s prayer. As Thomas Merton says in New Seeds of Contemplation, “It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God who chooses to awaken us.”
The notion of God brings us to the muse – the male writer’s form of the demon. The muse also embodies creativity. She’s fickle. She appears and disappears at will. We can’t control her as much as we love her. We try to summon her with sex, with falling in love, with mind altering drugs. But the fact is, she won’t be summoned. She alights when it damn well pleases her. She falls in love with one artist, the deserts him for another. She’s a real bitch.
For me anyway, the muse takes the form of the demon lover – the one Singer wrote about. He appears at dusk and is banished by dawn. He is part vampire. We long for him to come and drink our blood.
Of course the muse or demon lover is an aspect of self I know damn well when I am summoning this creature, I am really trying to connect with part of myself that is free, imaginative and able to fly. This part of me often gets lost under familial obligations and duties. I objectify my imagination as a separate creature, knowing this is metaphor. The muse or demon lover is inside me. I have to release the inhibitions that imprison me. I have to get rid of the voices that urge : Write nice, things, don’t embarrass the family, remember the plight of the Jews, and be sure to wrote good things about Israel…. Nothing freezes the imagination like family loyalty or political correctness.
What we all live for, hope for, would die for is what Henry Miller calls “the dictation”. That’s when the words take off on a frolic of their own, when you don’t seem to be writing or thinking but rather taking down some divine dictation. When Miller said, “A writer shouldn’t think much,” he meant that we are better off tapping into the dictation than thinking about it. But the problem is that the dictation comes so seldom. Sometimes you wait and wait and wait for it and it seems like it will never come again.
Extract from : Seducing the Demon : Writing for my Life, by Erica Jong